Last fall, the name Google.com – one of the most valuable domains on the Internet – was sold for $12.
The buyer, Sanmay Ved, is an ad-sales worker and MBA student at Babson College in suburban Boston. He worked for Google for more than five years and liked the company enough to put its logo on his Facebook page.
He purchased the domain name from under Google’s nose using the company’s own domain-buying platform. He owned the domain name for approximately one minute before the transaction was canceled.
The giant company admits Ved owned the domain, albeit very temporarily. The company then offered him $6006.13, which is a numerical version of the word Google. “Squint a little and you’ll see it,” the company said in blog post about the incident.
“A strange thing happened at 1:20 AM Eastern Time on Tuesday, September 29,” wrote Ved on his LinkedIn page. “I was learning more about the Google Domains interface, and typed google.com and clicked search domains. To my surprise, Google.com was showing as available!”
I clicked the add to cart icon beside the domain (which should not appear if the domain is not available for sale). The domain actually got added to my cart as seen by the green check-box, and the domain appeared in my cart. I was hoping I would get an error at sometime saying transaction did not go through, but I was able to complete purchase, and my credit card was actually charged!
As soon as I completed purchase, I received two emails, one from firstname.lastname@example.org, and one from email@example.com, which is not the norm when you book domains via Google Domains as I have booked new, previously un-registered domains before, and I have never received emails from the above aliases on booking the domains. I will not share the contents of the emails here given they relate to the Google.com domain. The domain also successfully appeared in my Google Domains order history.
Additionally, my Google Search Console (aka Google Webmaster Tools) was auto-updated with webmaster related messages for the Google.com domain which actually means ownership was transferred to me! One gets the below messages in Search Console only for those domains for which one is the verified admin/verified owner (of course access was removed when domain was taken back by Google).
Additionally, I started receiving notifications, for when ownership changed (along with new owner details etc.) in the Google Search Console for websites (I will not name them) that are powered by Google Sites (which makes sense given that websites powered by Google Sites rest on the master domain Google.com). Quite clearly, ownership had been granted to me. Order was successful.
Though purchase had successfully gone through, and domain now belonged to me as evident above, the purchase was followed by an order cancellation email from Google Domains. Google could do this given the registration service used by me (aka Google Domains) belonged to Google, unlike the 2003 event in which Microsoft forgot to renew their Hotmail UK domain which was registered with Nominet UK. As a result, the Hotmail UK domain was returned to the open market for pickup by anybody who fancied it. Somebody else picked it up, and as Microsoft wasn’t the registrar themselves, Microsoft wasn’t able to cancel the order, and take it back automatically. In my case, I don’t know what caused Google to lose ownership of the domain Google.com as a result of which it was available in the open market.
Ved concluded by noting, “I have reported the incident to Google Security. Google has reverted, has acknowledged the incident, and is investigating into the incident.”
At first Google told Ved he wouldn’t get any money as a result of the accidental transaction. Ved said that was fine – he’d rather it be donated to charity anyway. “I don’t care about the money,” Ved told Business Insider. “It was never about the money. I also want to set an example that it’s people who want to find bugs that it’s not always about the money.”
Then Google changed its mind after acknowledging that Ved had managed to buy the domain name. But Ved still had no intention of keeping the reward. “I wrote back and told them it was never about money,” he reiterated, “and asked that the money be donated to charity to the Art of Living India Foundation. They have replied and have stated that they understand and respect the fact that this was not about getting a reward. Despite that, given what they found, and how this was handled, they are ‘excited’ to offer me a reward.”
Upon finding the money was being donated, Google doubled its reward and gave it to Ved’s charity of choice, which “runs 404 free schools across 18 states of India, providing free education to more than 39,200 children in the slum, tribal and rural belts where child labor and poverty are widespread. The schools nurture the complete child, including body, mind and spirit.”
It’s a “cause close to the heart” for Ved, who said, “I’m kind of a proponent for education.”